Eight people have died in recent weeks in Peru from the A subtype of the H1N1 influenza virus, or swine flu, according to the Ministry of Health. Nationwide, there are currently 134 people reported ill with the flu symptoms, 90 of whom are in Callao and Lima. Others are widespread, from Arequipa in the southern Andes to Chimbote and Trujillo on the north coast, and Junin in the central highlands.
Martin Yaqui, director general of epidemiology at the Health Ministry, said in a press conference that the fatalities were in all cases high risk patients, with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart conditions, asthma, cirrhosis or obesity. Children under the age of 5 and senior citizens are particularly vulnerable also.
In 2009 and 2010, the virus was pandemic in Peru, claiming 268 lives. The first cases this year were reported in January, but the number has risen rapidly this month because people’s defenses are lower due to the cold winter. On July 16, some 73 patients were reported nationwide to have the virus, and this figure has doubled in less than a week.
The symptoms of the H1N1 virus are similar to the seasonal flu but can also include diarrhea and other stomach ailments. Contagion, as in seasonal flue, is by droplets sprayed through coughing or sneezing.
According to the Health minister, Midora de Habich, the state health system has 900,000 vaccines available, and has ordered a further 1.6 million that are due to arrive in August. Vaccines are given free of charge for children under 5-years-old and adults over 60, as well as pregnant women. The private health system also has its stock of vaccines.